Saturday, May 27, 2017

Alma 34:33 -- On the Night of Darkness

"And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed."
Alma 34:33


This is an important warning for us.  We often forget, because of the nature of this world, that things are very different for us now than they were before we came.  Our bodies are one of those primary things that we have now that we didn't have before.  They are the source of a lot of our challenges in life, but also a lot of joy and accomplishment.  We mostly take them for granted in this life, forgetting that we will lose them again, at least until resurrection and judgment.  That's why the verse talks about a night of darkness where we cannot perform labor.

Can you imagine not having a body?  Even though we spend so much of our lives adjusting to and learning to control our bodies, it's hard to imagine being without them again, or not being able to interact with people or do the things that we are used to doing.  Are we going to get to the spirit world and keep reaching for our non-existent cell phones? :)  On a more serious note, what will we leave undone here?

The whole "procrastinate the day of your repentance" doesn't seem very scary when we aren't thinking actively about death... and really, we usually don't since that's sort of morbid... but it's a sincerely serious issue that God is trying to warn us about.  Now is the time that we have to choose, to do... to become.  This life is our moment of choice and opportunity for action.  Things after this are going to be different, not only with the body thing, which is huge by itself, but remember the veil?  We're going to have our memories back.  We're going to *know* God.  No more faith necessary, presumably.  It's all going to be apparent.

This is super cool, of course, but also it means that here is the only space that we have to learn and develop faith, to overcome doubt, to repent and change in a situation where we could realistically choose either way, and act on it.  We can't overcome addictions without a body, or truly repent of our actions because we won't have the same temptation to stand up to or the opportunity we have here to choose to walk away from bad habits.

Today, now... let's take this warning seriously.  Let's take action while we can, and learn the things that we can only learn here.  Let's choose to change, and prepare for eternity.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Alma 12:7-8 -- On Pride and Salvation

"Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart; for power was given unto them that they might know of these things according to the spirit of prophecy.
And Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God. And he said unto Alma: What does this mean which Amulek hath spoken concerning the resurrection of the dead, that all shall rise from the dead, both the just and the unjust, and are brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works?"
Alma 12:7-8


Zeezrom impresses me here because he realizes that he has been unable to carry out his plan of embarrassing and mocking these men of God, and has, to a certain degree at least, been embarrassed in return, and yet despite that, instead of keeping up the pretense of being right, or saying something pithy and stomping off in a huff, he humbles himself and realizes that there is something here that he needs to learn, and he changes tactics, and jumps in and actually tries to learn it.  He doesn't let his pride get in the way of the truth, and his eventual salvation.  I want to be more like that.

Today, as we learn of God and face challenges and setbacks, especially to our pride, let's work to see past our embarrassment and hurt feelings, and embrace the truth whenever we find it.  Let's be willing to let go of our goals and our plans in favor of God's, whenever we discover that they are in conflict... immediately, without trying to hang on to our shattered souvenirs of failure and falsehood, no matter how invested we were.  God is all.  Zeezrom saw that, although so many other bad guys in the scriptures did not, and *he* was saved, unlike them.  When we find out that we're being the bad guys, let's stop in our tracks and turn around.  Let's not let our pride get in the way of our salvation.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Exodus 33:11 -- On Talking to God as a Friend

"And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle."
Exodus 33:11


The whole idea of seeing God is an interesting one in the scriptures.  We read a lot of things that seem to be contradictory.  For instance, "No man hath seen God at any time" (1 John 4:12).  And even later in this chapter, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live" (Exodus 33:20).  And yet, here it says that Moses spoke with God face to face.  We also know that the Brother of Jared saw the Lord.  We know that Joseph Smith saw both the Father and the Son in his vision, and of course many, many people saw and interacted with Christ during his life in Jerusalem and after his resurrection in the land of Bountiful.  So, there is obviously some additional information that we need to understand to resolve these seeming contradictions in the scriptures.

Luckily, some other scriptural clarifications clears things up a bit.  Moses 1:11 clarifies that Moses had to be transfigured in order to see God.  The Joseph Smith translation clarifies further than no sinful man can see God and live... which rules out most of us, given, but still leaves that narrow possibility open for people who have repented and who work to keep themselves clean.  Clarification of 1 John 4:12 also mentions the exception of them that believe, so with this further insight we realize that seeing God is a very big deal, and an experience that you have to be super pure and clean to have, but it is, barely, possible.

I really like the idea of being able to talk with God as we talk with our friends.  Not just the face to face part (although that is obviously super cool), but also just the friend part.  To think of God as our friend takes some of the anxiety out of the equation.  Being able to relax and talk with God and know that he is a friend and wants us to be happy... that's a powerful idea, and a powerful way to look at that relationship.  Of course, he isn't the type of friend that lets us get away with whatever we want, which is good.  He's the kind that spurs us to be better versions of ourselves, and to become more than we currently are.  He's the best kind of friend, and can be our best friend, if we are willing to open our hearts to him.  Today, let's do so.  Even if we don't have the privilege of seeing God face to face in this life, let's still talk to him as our friend, and act on his perfect advice.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Matthew 17:24-27 -- On Fish and Taxes

"And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee."
Matthew 17:24-27


The tribute that the collectors are asking for here was a temple tax, which helps us to understand the symbolism of the story somewhat.  It might be symbolic of God as the King and Jesus as his son, being free of the obligation to pay for the upkeep of his own temple, or really any tax, since God isn't subject to being taxed for his own stuff.  Whether or not that is the exact symbolism, the point here is that Christ wasn't taxable. :)

The story goes further though, and teaches an interesting lesson.  Instead of asserting his divine (and tax-free) status, he provided the means to pay the tax through a miracle.  Instead of behaving like many of the priests of the day who considered themselves above being taxed, he set an example of tolerance and kindness by backing down after he made his point to Peter, so as not to offend others who didn't have the same privileges, and causing unnecessary problems and conflict.

The miracle showed that he didn't need money, and also that he had control over everything--but it wasn't a point he was making to prove he was powerful.  He only wanted to show Peter that he didn't need to be concerned about tax collectors. :)

Today, let's learn the lesson that God was teaching Peter.  Let's remember that God is in charge of everything.  We should render unto Caesar the things which are his (Matthew 22:21) to avoid offense and strife, and definitely avoid being belligerent about our rights, but we should also never get freaked out about those minor (compared to God) things when we have the Lord to trust in.  If God could get a fish to deliver his taxes, he *certainly* can help us to take care of the problems in our lives.  Let's make sure that God comes first in our lives, always, and not let monetary (or other) distractions get in the way of that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Proverbs 6:16-19 -- On Things to Avoid

"These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
Proverbs 6:16-19


These are some good verses for understanding what *not* to do. :)  I think sometimes we don't take some of these things seriously enough, but maybe understanding that they are on a list of things that the Lord hates will help us avoid them more diligently. :)

It is interesting that the Lord doesn't just condemn pride here, but a "proud look."  As with other things, we should "abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and we have to internalize our humility... feeling it, not just acting it.

Lying tongues and false witnesses that speak lies are condemned, and I think we probably could all improve in this area as well.  It's tempting to pretend we know things or kind of skip over the truth sometimes to avoid embarrassment, to look good, or to win.  Good things to watch out for.

Hearts that devise wicked imaginations is an interesting one.  Sometimes we try to separate thought and action and believe that our imaginations and our fictions are safe ways to explore "the dark side," but we forget that the Lord has told us "as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7).  Our thoughts and imaginations are part of us, and they become us, and eventually leak into our actions if that is what we keep loading up in our minds.  To become more like God, we have to change our actions *and* our thoughts and desires.

Today, let's avoid doing these things that God is specifically warning us against.  Let's not run to mischief or sow discord, or harm others.  Let's instead build each other up, sowing peace, and running to do good thing and help and serve.  Let's be more like God, and allow God to help us become our best selves.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ecclesiastes 3:1 -- On Times and Seasons

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"
Ecclesiastes 3:1


This verse reminds us how important it is to have a relationship with God and stay close to his spirit. Though they have many things in common, the answers to life aren't always exactly the same for everyone, and the best choice for one person might not be the best choice for someone else, except in a wider 'choose good rather than evil' sense (Alma 41:7).

We know that the scriptures tell us both to resist evil, and not to resist evil.  They tell us not to kill, and yet some people were killed at God's command.  We have commandments and scriptures to rely on, and obedience is always the best choice.  In the end though, we have to be listening to God, because he is the one that knows the timing.  Sometimes we just don't know what to do.  We have ideas, and God asks us to use our agency and make choices, and we move forward.  This is absolutely good, but it is important to be listening to the spirit because God might have some minor course corrections for us as we go, and if we're not listening we can get way off track on our own.

So, today, let's listen to know the times and the seasons.  Let's go forward, doing as God asks, and when we get to a rough patch where we're not sure, let's pray.  God always knows the right thing to do.  He can remind us about what is most important each day and each hour, and he gives the very best advice.  The more we listen, the better we will learn to hear it, and the more guidance and confidence we can have from God.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

D&C 88:118 -- On Learning by Faith

"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:118


The first part of this verse is interesting, and it seems to imply that if we all had enough faith, we might not need to study... we could learn everything through faith instead.  I have no idea if that is actually true, of course, since I am decidedly in the need-to-study group, but it's interesting to think about how our lives would change if we had more faith.

We learn a lot from faith already.  It's how we build our testimonies and gain confidence before God. We take the little faith we have--faith enough to pray, faith enough to go to church--and we act on it. And as we exercise our faith and do more and more, God shows us, through the spirit and through blessings, that our faith was well-founded.  Thus we receive a witness, after the trial of our faith (Ether 12:6).  If we had more faith we could probably learn much more--perhaps even how to walk on water as Peter did for a few steps, or how to make stones shine in darkness or move mountains as the Brother of Jared did with God's help.  Faith unlocks the door to seemingly unlimited potential.

None of this is to say of course that we should give up reading and studying.  In fact, reading the scriptures is another thing that we can do by faith.  If we have faith enough to read, then God blesses us with his spirit and his guidance.  The more we read and study, the more we are blessed.

Today, no matter how much faith we have, let's seek learning.  Let's read the best books and find words of wisdom, especially from the scriptures.  As we do, let's recognize that studying the scriptures is also learning by faith.  Let's have faith enough to go to church, pray, visit the temple, and do things that the Lord has asked us in other areas as well.  As we are faithful and obedient, we will learn through our faith in listening to the Lord and doing as he asks.  Who knows, maybe someday in the world to come, we won't even have to hit the books anymore because we will know everything that is in them by heart, through our faith.  For now, though, let's seek learning through study *and* faith.  We still have a lot to learn in both ways. :)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alma 37:37 -- On Counseling with the Lord

"Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day."
Alma 37:37


I love this verse.  To me, it seems like a variation on the admonition to "pray always" (Luke 21:36, etc.), but in a somewhat more structured way.  God gives us some specifics, like lying down unto the Lord when we go to sleep, and rising unto the Lord when we wake up.  The in-between part I think is also assumed--that we should be living unto the Lord with every breath and step and moment of our lives.

That's hard for us sometimes, because we aren't used to that constant contact with God.  We structure our lives with more division and separation than that.  This is our time, and that is God's time.  However, as we grow in the gospel, those things have to start bleeding together a little, and eventually, we'll learn that we have God with us always, during our time and his, and that there really doesn't need to be difference between them except perhaps in terms of Sabbath observance. :)   Part of learning to give our wills to him is learning to include him in all that we do... and also learning that his solutions to our problems are so much better than ours are that it's actually kind of funny/scary to think of trying to live live alone.

Today, let's counsel with the Lord about whatever is going on with us.  It doesn't matter what it is, God *does* want to hear it.  He loves us, and he wants to be part of every moment of our lives.  Plus, he can help.  There isn't anyone in the universe better to bounce things off of.  He will direct us for good.  Let's go to sleep with him in our hearts and minds, and let's think of him as we awake.  Let's work with him to be good, and be thankful to be able to have God as our companion and guide through life.

Friday, May 19, 2017

D&C 115:6 -- On Gathering Against the Storm

"And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth."
Doctrine and Covenants 115:6


Isaiah tells us that the Lord is a "refuge from the storm" (Isaiah 25:4), and Ammon tells us that missionary work helps gather people together (to God) so that they will "not be beaten down by the storm at the last day" (Alma 26:6).  This verse also warns us that a storm is coming.

I can't tell if the storm and the wrath are entirely separate, and how much is symbolic, so it could be a physical storm and then a symbolic storm of wrath, or it could all be spiritual, or it could be both... and in some ways, perhaps it has already started.  By any interpretation though, it's still a scary thought that there is or will be any kind of storm so big over the whole earth that we will need God to protect us from it.  That's a natural disaster on a whole different level.

As with all of the other scary things in life though, God warns us of the storm, and tells us how to weather it.  We need to gather together, to God, and build up Zion.  Not in a "join my church or you'll die" way, as a threat, but in more of a Noah's Ark type way.  A storm *is* coming, and God has made a way for us to be saved, if we will listen.  Or in just a life way.  A day of judgment and an afterlife is coming for all of us, and God wants to help us to be as happy as possible in that world to come.

God wants to gather us.  He says "how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not" (3 Nephi 10:5; Matthew 23:7).  Today, let's stop refusing him.  Let's gather; let's allow the Lord to protect us by teaching us his gospel and a better way to live.  Let's become Zion people not just in geography or on membership rolls, but in the deepest spiritual way, through obedience to, and emulation of, Christ.  Then we will be truly gathered, and join in the work to gather others.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Psalms 62:2 -- On God as our Rock

"He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved."
Psalms 62:2


I love the idea here of not being moved.  God is our center, our core... our home.  And no one can pull us away from that place we belong.  We can choose to leave, of course, but just like God's hope is an anchor to our souls (Hebrews 6:19; Ether 12:4), God's solidity, strength, and stability in our lives will always be there when we need it, and if we hold to it with all that we are.

That isn't to say, of course, that we won't change if we stick with God.  If fact, we will change.  God wants us to reach our potential and to grow into more than we could ever hope to be, or probably even comprehend yet.  He isn't a rock that chains us in a prison, but one that shelters us and gives us confidence that we can weather any storm, and always find our way.

Today, let's trust in God's strength and solidity.  Let's have faith that with him, we can face whatever comes, and still be okay.  And with that confidence and companionship, let's be willing to go out into the world and try new things, and learn a lot, help and serve others, and strive to reach that potential.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 -- On Being Strong and Loving

"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
Let all your things be done with charity."
1 Corinthians 16:13-14


I like how these two verses talk about being firm, manly, and strong, and also loving.  We often (to everyone's detriment) assign different emotions and attributes to different genders, saying in essence, this is manly, and this is feminine, and kind of denying that women can be firm and strong and that's okay, and that men can be loving and compassionate, and that's okay too.

I'm not saying that we're exactly the same and there aren't some valuable differences between us.  I'm just saying that I think we overdo it when we criticize men for crying, or women for not backing down. These verses, and the entire life of Christ and so much else in the gospel shows us that that it's not our job to play a role or to embrace weakness.  We are all made to be whole--strong *and* compassionate, smart and sweet. :)  God tells us that we can make our weaknesses strengths.  That goes for everyone, not just the "weaker" sex. ;)  Just like we shouldn't be saying "oh, I'm bad at that" with basic knowledge or talents, we shouldn't be "bad at" emotions or relationships or hard work or creativity or parenting or leadership.  We can do anything--we're children of God.

Today, let's rely on God's idea of who we are and who we can be rather than the world's.  Let's follow the example of Christ.  Let's learn faith and hope and love, and strength and leadership and brilliance. Let's reach for a potential that is beyond our imagination, letting go of Earthly limitations, and only restricted by the boundaries the Lord has set (for example, being good guys and not bad guys).  Let's not mock men, or women, for showing their emotions.  Let's not judge people based on societal gender expectations, which can get pretty scary sometimes.  Let's treat each other, no matter who, with love and respect and compassion.  And the more we practice, the closer we will be to being able to be a Zion community.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Proverbs 17:9-10 -- On Friendship and Influence

"He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool."
Proverbs 17:9-10


I saw one of those memes the other day about how good friends help you hide bodies and, you know, usually I just laugh, but this time for some reason I was struck by how wrong that is. :)  I think we get off track sometimes because we have this societal ideal of friendship, and even romantic love, as perfect, unquestioning loyalty... and it isn't, and *shouldn't* be.  These verses reminded me of that idea in general--how important it is to lift and help each other, and not encourage or protect each other in evil.  We *are* our brothers' keepers. We *need* help to do good and stay on the right track, instead of help getting to hell.  Seriously, no one needs help doing that--it's as easy as falling down, although it hurts more.

As the verse says, we often cover our own transgressions and other people's because we seek love. We don't want people to hate or mock us.  We don't want to be seen as bad or for people to yell at us. And there are some times that it is okay, and probably even better, to just let something go, and save everyone stress and embarrassment.  Of course, if the transgressions are repeated, then we have to address it, and perhaps remove the evil influence, which can be painful.  And of course, if there something really serious going on, such as there being a body involved, a truly good friend helps you do the right thing, not the "loyal" thing.  Hopefully, as we endeavor to be good friends to each other, we can help each other avoid extreme transgression before it happens.

I like the last verse here because I think it shows how we can make a difference.  If we really care about someone's opinion, then what they say can change our lives.  Sometimes God speaks to us through each other, and the spirit delivers a seemingly off-the-cuff, innocuous comment from someone else to us as lightning to the soul.  To be those people though, we have to listen to the spirit and be the "Iron sharpeneth iron" (Proverbs 27:17) type of friends, not the help-bury-bodies sort of friends.  We have to listen to the spirit and say what God wants us to say, not just what will make us more popular and loved, and never using friendship as an excuse for cruelty either.  We don't need to beat people up to help them to be better.  Gentle reproof is better than 100 stripes--physical or otherwise.  Today, let's be wise.  Let's help each other to be better people and to listen to God.  Let's be aware of our influence in other people's lives and try to set a better example.  Let's be Godly friends, and not pressure each other into supporting our sin.

Monday, May 15, 2017

D&C 88:28-32 -- On Being Willing to Receive Heaven

"They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:28-32


This is talking about the resurrection, and I find it fascinating that it is all about willingness, and that apparently, before the resurrection, we are quickened by a portion of that spirit.  So, it seems to be that it isn't about a checklist of being good or an average of our good works against our bad works or any of the other ways that we are graded in this life.  It is about who we are willing to be.

I definitely am not trying to depress anyone here.  I have times where I wonder if I really want what God wants, because his will seems hard, and I am sorta lazy.  I think that this can happen to all of us.  We can examine our feelings and our hearts and realize, you know... I just don't want to do that.  Home teaching, visiting teaching, missionary work, genealogy, tithing, our callings, going to church, or even at the most basic level--resisting temptation or being nice.  Love instead of hate--whatever it is, we don't always feel it.  I don't think that means we are lost though.  I think it just means we have more to learn.

When we were young, we didn't always want to learn things.  Tying your shoes is hard, and learning to read, memorizing the times tables, and doing the dishes and the laundry.  Some things are pretty awful: playing the piano, being reverent and polite, showing respect, learning to ride/drive a bike, a car, or a unicycle, and worst of all... being *responsible.*  Ugh, right?  And yet, we didn't only learn things we liked.  Often, we learned things that we didn't want to learn, and sometimes we learned to enjoy things that we started out hating.

It's the same now.  We aren't going to insta-hell because we don't want to go to church today.  Instead, we look at the big picture, we go anyway, we realize that we like it when we go, or we feel the spirit, and it is a good idea anyway.  We learn to think through our whininess, and learn how to like the things that we don't like--how to love what God loves.  Some say it is impossible, but I know from personal experience that it is not.  We get to be whatever we choose to be.  No external force can dictate that (except God probably, but he *would* never do that).

That's how God can make our weaknesses into strengths.  That is how God can change our hearts... because we *want* to be different than we are, and we ask for it, and he helps us change who we are.  It reminds me of the question that Lamoni's father, the kind of the Lamanites asked: "What shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day?" (Alma 22:15).  The answer then was, and the answer now is, repent and ask God, and he will grant us hope and help.

Today, let's be willing to receive all that God has to give us, and let's work on the attitude part as well.  We're little kids, and we don't always want to grow up, but as we do, we are capable of so much more, and we increase our capacity for love and joy.  Let's get to the point where we can have a portion of Heaven within us.  Let's ask for God's help with growing into who we can be rather than fighting so hard to remain as we are.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Proverbs 23:4 -- On Monetary Motives and God's Guidance

"Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom."
Proverbs 23:4


It's interesting that God asks us not to work at being rich--not because it sounds like something God wouldn't say, because it is clearly something he would and did say, in different ways, quite a lot, but because I feel like we rarely want to hear it.  We want to labor for riches--in fact, we often try to make that the point of our lives, and see value in it.  We justify it in a lot of ways, including very good things like taking care of our families, helping others, and making the world a better place.

The perfect complement to a command not to be rich is the command to cease from our own wisdom... because it is our wisdom that keeps telling us that we need money, that money needs to come first--that money will solve all of these other problems that we have.

If we can't trust in our wisdom, and we shouldn't seek riches, then what *should* we trust, and what *should* we seek instead?  God answers that in the next verse by asking "Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?" (verse 5), and by telling us elsewhere in the scriptures not to trust in the arm of flesh (2 Chronicles 32:8, etc.).  We can't trust in riches, and we can't even trust in ourselves.  What we *can* trust, when nothing else stands, is God.   He advises "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (3 Nephi 13:33).  Instead of putting money first, and working for it, if we put God first, then things will be okay, and work out as they should.  ... We just have to trust in that--in God--rather than in our own doubts, fears, and also a little greed as no matter what we have, we keep thinking that we need more and more.

Today, let's try to let go of money as a primary goal.  Let's work on trusting God more than we trust ourselves.  Let's work on that faith and trust in God that will help us see farther and accomplish more than we could on our own.  Let's believe and move forward, knowing that God will guide our steps.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

D&C 130:19 -- On Rules and Knowledge

"And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come."
Doctrine and Covenants 130:19


What I find interesting about this verse today is the idea that obedience helps us gain knowledge and intelligence.  We rebel so often against "the rules," and yet the rules--or at least God's rules--are exactly what enable us to succeed.

I think of it a little like a game, although of course life is much more than that.  In a game, the rules are what define the whole activity.  Without rules, you can't win, and you can't even play, because without some kind of rules there is no game.

Life is much more serious than a game, as I said, but just like we can compare life to a story with a guaranteed happy ending, we can compare life to a game that we absolutely empowered to succeed at. Our father teaches us the rules, and he's even there with an unlimited supply of hints about strategy. The problem is that we misinterpret and misunderstand the rules so often, and we keep using the wrong strategy.  We try competing and undermining our opponents, but the victory conditions can't be met without working together to reach the final goal.  Our diligence and obedience in understanding the rules and following them can give us an advantage even beyond the game, because we'll have learned planning and strategy and cooperation and support.  All things we need in the real world.

And so it is with life, right?  The better we learn the gospel and the rules of this life, the better we will do, and the better the people around us will do with our help.  The more we are diligent and obedient in loving God, helping our fellow beings, and understanding and living the gospel, the more we will succeed together and be prepared for the world to come.  Today, let's work on our diligence and obedience.  Let's follow the rules and gain some knowledge and intelligence--and whatever we gain, let's go back again and apply those things in God's way, not our own, by loving and serving and becoming better, and making the world better in the process.

Friday, May 12, 2017

1 Samuel 17:45-47 -- On Facing our Goliaths with Faith

"Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands."
1 Samuel 17:45-47


I like David's unwavering faith here.  He was just full steam ahead with what God wanted, and no one was going to get in the way of that.  I wonder how often in life we let our symbolic Goliaths stop us, which wouldn't be obstacles at all if we just had the faith to face them.

As David said, "there is a God" who stands up for his people.  Let's *be* those people and stand up for God's will.  Let's work up our courage and face down the Goliaths that are standing in the way of what God wants.  Let's be confident, remembering that we don't have to be mightier or stronger, because God "saveth not with sword and spear."  If we're doing God's will, the battles will be delivered into our hands.  We just have to be willing to stand up for Him.

I think sometimes the Goliaths that we face are within ourselves, but even so, we can conquer them with God's help, and be stronger and more whole once we have.  Let's go forward in faith, today and always.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hebrews 4:14-16 -- On An Accessible God

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:14-16


The idea of God is way bigger than we can really comprehend.  The creator of the Universe--of everything.  I mean, that's huge, right?  And sometimes we feel that vastness of difference between ourselves and God and it seems like distance, and an incomprehensibly large barrier to understanding and communication.  I think in this, as in so many other things, Jesus is the perfect intercessor and mediator.  He went through everything that we go through.  He literally suffered our pains and our sins, so he has felt everything that we can possibly feel.  He completely understands us, and knows where we are coming from.  He has compassion for us, and wants to grant us mercy.  And that lessens that emotional and psychological distance a lot, and helps us to understand that even though God is beyond our comprehension in so many ways, he is still accessible to us through the things that we both understand and can collaborate on... our lives.

It still takes work on our parts to reach out to God and to allow him into our lives.  We still have to learn to be better people, but Christ bridges the distance not only between ourselves and God but between life and death, condemnation and forgiveness, and justice and mercy.  He makes salvation not only possible in a general, abstract sense, but he ensures that it is within the grasp of every individual.  He prepared the way.

Today, let's remember that God does feel for us, and understand what we are going through.  He knows we can do it, and he has made it all possible for each of us to succeed.  Let's determine to follow the example that Christ set for us of obedience, devotion, and good works.  Let's turn to him for help and comfort in our quest to change not only our actions but our hearts and our minds--to want what God wants, and to live as he lived as we strive to become Zion people.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Proverbs 21:23 -- On Keeping Our Souls from Trouble

"Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles."
Proverbs 21:23


Sometimes a simple verse is enough.  No complex brain work today. :)  I like this one because it helps us to zoom in on a very narrowly focused, achievable goal: to watch what we say.  It is similar to Matthew 6:22, which talks about eyes instead, but has the same theme of focusing on God.

Now of course by "achievable" I don't mean easy.  I think back just on today and there are quite a few things I should not have said, and probably several that I could have and should have, but didn't.  But that's why we're here... to keep trying until we figure it out. :)

Today, let's keep trying.  Let's not get overwhelmed with all of our weaknesses, but instead focus on something like this--something specific we can work on.  And if we can do this small thing, then we are each protecting our "soul from troubles," which sounds really, really good, and seems like a pretty awesome reward for such a little effort.  God is cool like that.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

2 Corinthians 10:18 -- On Being Toddlers Before God

"For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth."
2 Corinthians 10:18


Our pride gets us in a lot of trouble sometimes.  We rebel againt God's rules or go our own way, trying to assert our independece or fulfil a desire--telling ourselves that we don't need approval or anything else from God, but it just ends in selfishness and desensitization to the Spirit--instead of improving ourselves we work to become past feeling so that our consciences are silent as we harm ourselves and others.  Things stop bothering us, and we somehow see that as a good thing--that we've overcome our embarassment or our cultural bias instead of actually deadening ourselves to God's voice.

I imagine if we were meek enough, we would realize that we are actually barely toddlers before God.  Our rebellions and course deviations are little more than throwing our food on the ground or playing in a mud puddle.  We delay blessings and other good things that could come into our lives, and we make ourselves decidedly filthy, but it all just comes back to the fact that we *do not* know what is best for us, and until we start listening, we'll never get anywhere.

Do we want to hear this?  No... of course not.  We want to be right, to know best, and to shout "I AM BIG" to the sky.  But truthfully, we need our Father's help to make it through this stage in our lives.  We need guidane, support, and a lot of hints about where to go and what to do.  

Today, maybe we can take a step back and allow ourselves to acknowledge that God might be smarter than we are, and seek his help and his commendation rather than just our own.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Helaman 6:35-36 -- On Turning Good

"And thus we see that the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites, because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts.And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words."
Helaman 6:35-36


This is an interesting juxtaposition at this point in the Book of Mormon.  Traditionally, throughout the book, the Nephites have been the good guys and the Lamanites have been the bad guys.  And yet, here, they kind of switch places with the Nephites turning bad and the Lamanites turning good.

This can teach us several things, I think.  First, it is never too late for the bad guys. Sometimes that's what we choose to be, but if the Lamanites could change, so can we.  God chooses whoever is willing to come unto him, and he will help us change our hearts and our hats so we can still ride off into the sunset as all good guys should. :)

Another thing we learn here is that we should never grow complacent, assuming we're the good guys.  If we stop working at it, we're going to lose it.  We don't get free tickets to heaven because of our parents or our religion or because we did something good in the past.  We have to always be on guard and make sure our hats and our hearts are pure. :)

What truly matters, much more than the color of our hats or our positions in the world, or even what we have done in the past, is who we are right now, and our relationship with God.  Today, let's move toward the good.  Let's become the good guys, no matter who else we might have been.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

D&C 59:4 -- On Commandments as a Reward and Blessing

"And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me."
Doctrine and Covenants 59:4


This is talking about the faithful, and it says that they will get blessings, commandments, and revelations.  One of those is not like the others, or so it seems initially, right?  We don't usually look at commandments as rewards, but as restrictions.

I really love this idea that commandments are rewards and blessings for being faithful.  The section then proceeds to lay out (or bless us with) some commandments, and makes it clear that these are to help us keep "unspotted from the world" (verse 9).  This shows the purpose behind the commandments as well, that God is offering them to us based on love and concern rather than control.

Today, let's remember that commandments are blessings to our lives, designed to help us to be happier than we could ever learn to be without them.  Let's honor and thank our Father for making rules to live by that help us guide our lives and lead us to peace and safety.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

D&C 29:1-3 -- On the Arm of Mercy

"Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins;
Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer.
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that at this time your sins are forgiven you, therefore ye receive these things; but remember to sin no more, lest perils shall come upon you."
Doctrine and Covenants 29:1-3


I like the arm of mercy idea here.  First God asks us to listen to him, and he gives us a good reason why... he atoned for our sins.  He mentions how he wants to gather and protect us, if we will just listen, be humble, and pray.  (I think prayer and humility go together in some measure, since on some level we have to admit that we need God in order to pray to him.)

I really love the part where he forgives sins... and I think, just like we can liken other scriptures to us, we can liken this one, because God is always willing to forgive us, if we are willing to repent and change.

God reminds us also to remember to sin no more.  An important reminder, since it is so easy for us to fall into that trap again and again.

Today, let's remember that choosing God is a choice that changes us.  Let's embrace that change and repent, and be willing to rely on the arm of mercy and be gathered to God.  As we are forgiven, let's remember what the Lord has done for us, and be willing to give up sin to know and grow closer to him.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Isaiah 38:1-5 -- On Tears and Prayers and Perfect Hearts

"In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.
Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord,
And said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying,
Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years."
Isaiah 38:1-5


I really like this story, because it is an awesome reminder that God both loves us and listens to our prayers.  God warned Hezekiah to set his house in order because he was going to die, and you can tell they already had a good relationship just from that warning.  But then Hezekiah prays and pleads with the Lord, and the Lord hears him and agrees to extend his life. :)  I love that.

God doesn't laugh at us when we're sad or frightened; he cares, and he wants to help us.  I don't think that means he'll give us all 15 extra years to live, but if we're doing good and living the gospel, he will answer our prayers and help us.  In D&C 6:36, God tells us "Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."  He wants us to pray to him about everything.  It's not offensive to God to ask him to help us with little things: he's our best friend.  Of course there has to be a balance where we are also learning to take action and not waiting for God to do everything for us, or to tell us everything to do.  We have to learn to stand on our own--part of the whole earthly experience.

I've actually always wondered if Earth life is kind of like a spiritual coming-of-age ritual, like going off to college or going on a mission, or maybe joining the military... something where we really find out for the first time who we are away from that core support system and authority that we've had all our lives.  Coming to earth is like that in a lot of ways because we are away from God for the first time, but (as in college), we're encouraged to call home and stay in contact--to get advice, but not to ask our parents to live all of it for us. :)

Today, let's be like Hezekiah, not in being sick and about to die, but in our relationships with God.  Let's work on walking before God in truth and with perfect hearts.  Let's look to him in every thought--letting go of our doubts and fears.  Let's go to God and plead with him for the things that we need in our lives--and as we do, he will hear us, and work with us, because he loves us, and cares about us.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

D&C 122:7 -- On Surviving the Jaws of Hell

"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."
Doctrine and Covenants 122:7


This verse is part of a revelation given to Joseph Smith while he was in Liberty Jail.  It's full of darkness and hope at the same time, and it reminds me of several verses that all say that "all things" shall work together for our good (Romans 8:28; D&C 90:24, 98:3, 100:15, 105:40).  D&C 98:3 says specifically "all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good."  I love the idea of everything that happens to us, even the bad stuff, working for our good... and I think that is totally true, and a fundamental part of life experience as designed by God.  It is all there to teach us and help us to reach our potential--to become closer to God, and more of the people that we want to be, and less of who we don't want to be.  However, of course, that isn't always an easy thing to remember when we are staring into "the very jaws of hell."

Actually, just the idea that Hell *has* jaws is kind of unnerving, right?  It's obviously symbolic, but it's still scary.  But maybe that's good, right?  *Life* is scary.  This conversation between God and Joseph Smith wasn't about the afterlife.  It was about things that Joseph was living through.  And I think we all go through things that we might call Hell: things that don't feel like they are helping us at all--things that feel like they are breaking us instead.  Those are not fun times.  And yet, even those things are for our good, and part of God's plan of happiness.

How can we possibly find happiness or retain a positive perspective if we can hear Hell creeping up behind us?  One thing that helps me is this scripture and others like it that remind us that there is meaning and purpose behind all of it... that God didn't just toss us here to handle things alone, but he, and "all things" are going to work with us and help us to make it through.  I really like that "all" ... I imagine the rocks and the trees and the air, all on my side, and it kind of helps. :)

Today, let's remember that "all these things" not only give us experience, but they are also working together (with God) for our good.  It's okay to be scared when the rancid breath of Hell is in our face, but let's trust in God, and know that we are going to come out okay in the end.  We just have to hang in there and keep working at it and turning pages and not give up, and eventually the hero will win... and we're all the heroes. :)  That's why everything works for our good, right? :)  Things get better.  God will make it okay... and we'll become stronger and better than we ever imagined was possible. :)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ether 12:4 -- On Hope as an Anchor to the Soul

"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."
Ether 12:4


I love the idea of hope as an anchor.  I suppose the symbolism of an anchor could be seen as dragging us down and restraining our freedom, but anchors are useful to help ships and other vessels stay where they mean to be, and prevent drifting.  And this anchor of hope we know from Hebrews 6:19-20, "entereth into that within the veil."  Our anchors of hope aren't just any hope, but specifically hope in Christ.

I love the "with surety hope for a better world" part.  It's getting pretty close to knowledge when you can be sure of your hope.  I think that is where the faith comes in.  That certain trust and commitment to a very tangible dream: A better world.  And if we hold onto this hope, then we will become sure, and steadfast, always abounding in good works, and being led to glorify God.  ... I totally want to be that person, don't you? :)

You know, sometimes we *desperately* need an anchor.  We have days when all of our mistakes and sins and stupidities are brought to mind, and we remember just how far we are from any eternal goals, and it is tempting to despair.  It's hard to see the hope when we are looking at ourselves through a dark filter of regret, and wondering how we can ever be better when we really haven't been very good at it so far.  And yet, that is why we don't anchor to ourselves, or to Satan, who loves to discourage us.  We anchor instead to our hope in God, who loves us despite all our efforts to mess up our own and others' lives.  Who sees beauty and possibility in us, and who knows how great we can be, and is willing to help us do the work to get us there.  There is no better anchor for a soul.

Today, let's anchor our souls in Christ.  Let's believe in God, and hope for a better world.  And then, let's jump in there and start doing the work to help make ourselves, and others, part of that very real dream. :)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Alma 5:14-16 -- On Question Marks, Changing Hearts, and the Voice of God

"And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?"
Alma 5:14-16


In college I picked up a ring that had a question mark on the front and "Alma 5:14" inscribed inside it.  To me, it was a cool reminder of this first verse, and a perhaps more-cool companion to my CTR ring.  Ever since then, I think, question marks have always made me think of Alma 5--the questions that Alma asks here, and also the one that he asks later, in verse 26: "Can ye feel so now?"

These are excellent questions.  And we have to answer some of them no at times.  We might not be there yet, or we're not there right now.  But this reminds us what is possible with the Lord.  He can change our hearts, not just our actions.  He can redeem us, un-corrupt us, and make us clean. :)  We can be *like* him, symbolically receiving his image in our countenances... the same goals, the same love, the same happiness and purpose.

Today, let's ask ourselves these questions.  Let's imagine hearing God say to us "Come unto me ye blessed."  ... Wow, right?  Let's be those people that will hear that phrase from God.  If we haven't had our hearts changed, let's engage with God, and work it out with him.  Let's humble ourselves and recognize that we need it.  And if we have experienced it, let's remind ourselves, over and over, that we need to feel so now: today and always.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Psalms 111:4 -- On Blame and Blessings

"He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion."
Psalms 111:4


It's so easy for us to start thinking of God as an oppressor or a punisher.  I think it is because we want so much to deflect the responsibility for our mistakes and bad choices, or just our circumstances, onto something external.  We do it with a lot of things, not just God.  We blame our families, or society, or the country, or the people who must be evil because they don't agree with us, or people in authority, or people who aren't as cool as we are, or whatever... race, religion, politics, gender, attractiveness, our bosses, etc.  If it weren't for this or that or the other thing, life would be GREAT. :)  And, of course, because we can't control those other things, it totally isn't our fault, but people who *can* control them... must be their fault that life is crappy.  And God is at the top of that blamestorm... no one beyond that, really.

Since it is so easy to fall into that mindset and wonder why God isn't solving all of our problems in addition to having someone drop a winning lottery ticket for us to pick up, I think that is one of the reasons that God gave us the scriptures and that group memory of his wonderful works.  He reminds us that life isn't perfect... that people do suffer.  He reminds us that no one is perfect except Christ, and even he, the greatest of all, didn't always *want* to drink his bitter cup.  We realize that families have failings, that some people are not really the type of people you should hang out with.

God also reminds us of the awesome things.  Healing, and strengthening, and saving.  He tells us that we aren't perfect, but also that it is okay not to be perfect all at once--that is exactly why he suffered for us, so that we can still make it, if we repent, and that he will help us all the way.  He pulls us back from the brink of other-blame, reminds us that we've made our own mistakes, and that they have consequences, but that he can help us bear the burden and show us the way to happiness.

Today, let's work on not blaming God (or anyone else) for our lives, and remember that God can help us be happy even in the midst of trials and challenges.  Realizing that we aren't perfect is the first step to learning how to be better, and God can and will assist us in making our weaknesses strengths, as we go to him in prayer.  Let's remember that the Lord is full of grace and compassion, and that it is okay to be imperfect.  We just have to keep working on it, and the Lord will bless us.

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